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NY Senate passes bill banning drones from flying near prisons

The bill is designed to help reduce the amount of contraband entering prisons

By Brian Molongoski
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

NEW YORK — The state Senate passed a bill that would ban drone use within 1,000 feet of correctional facilities.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is designed to help reduce the amount of contraband entering prisons.

“Inmates are finding new and more devious ways to find networks both in and out of prison to smuggle dangerous contraband, drugs, cellphones and potentially even guns and other weapons past security,” Sen. Ritchie said in a statement.

She cited multiple instances of criminals using drones to smuggle contraband into prisons, including one in which a drone was discovered at Auburn Correctional last year. Additionally, in Michigan and Maryland, drones have been used to deliver drugs and various other items to correctional facilities.

“We need to keep our prisons secure and safe, both for the brave men and women who stand guard and protect us, as well as to prevent prison violence,” she said.

Under the bill, violators would face a $1,000 penalty for the first offense and each additional offense is punishable as a misdemeanor.

However, the restrictions would not apply to the operation of a drone approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial purposes.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

Sen. Ritchie has advocated for other prison contraband reform measures this year as well. She recently spoke at a Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Public Protection to discuss how low staffing levels and the ability of inmates to easily smuggle contraband into prisons and jails puts corrections officers and other workers at risk.

She also sponsored legislation that would provide retirement benefits to families of retirement-eligible corrections officers who die while still employed.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed the bill, saying that such a policy should be part of union negotiations.

©2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)